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Last updated on February 20th, 2019
Toothpastes are like lipsticks – we use them every day (if you’re a woman) but give little thought to what they are made of. To form my opinion about the safety of a product, I look at its ingredients, not advertisement claims. So, let’s do that together. Today we are going to look at a very common toothpaste called Crest Complete Toothpaste, Extra Whitening. The Crest Complete toothpaste is made by Procter and Gamble and, if you go to a regular (non-holistic) dentist, he or she will hand you one every time.
Improvements in the Crest Complete toothpaste
I am happy to inform you that the Crest Complete Toothpaste has been reformulated to remove microbeads. Here is an example of consumer power. The old formulation included poloxamer 407, which is a fancy name for microbeads. However, plastic microbeads may get stuck in our gums, causing inflammation. They also get stuck in our organs. Then they get stuck in fish, and then we eat these microbeads when we eat fish. They do not biodegrade and they accumulate in the environment and us (source). So, microbeads are a big no-no, and the Crest Complete Toothpaste has stopped using them. And that’s a really nice step in the right direction.
There are other improvements, too. The artificial dyes and natural wax have been removed.
The new list of Crest Complete toothpaste ingredients accessed in February 2019 (source) is as follows:
Active Ingredient of Crest Complete Toothpaste: sodium fluoride 0.243%
Inactive Ingredients of Crest Complete Toothpaste: sorbitol, water, hydrated silica, sodium laurel sulfate, flavor, sodium hydroxide, alcohol (0.7%), xanthan gum, sodium saccharin, glycerin, carbomer, cellulose gum, polysorbate 80, sodium benzoate, cetylpyridinium chloride, benzoic acid, titanium dioxide, disodium pyrophosphate
The analysis of the Crest Complete toothpaste ingredients
Sorbitol: It is sugar alcohol. Studies show that it is less damaging for teeth than sugar. Yet, I prefer to use toothpaste without any forms of sugar. Since it comes first on the list, it means that it is the ingredient used in the largest quantity.
Hydrated Silica: It is also known as sand, is not toxic, and is used as a mild abrasive.
Sodium Laurel Sulfate: This is what makes Crest Complete toothpaste foam. It is known for being too harsh on the skin and hair. And we all know how sensitive our mouth skin is. The Cosmetic Ingredient Review Expert Panel warns that it may cause irritation. I do not use it in shampoos as it strips my hair of natural oils making my hair too dry. Unfortunately, it is a very common ingredient in toothpastes.
Flavor: These are mixtures of undisclosed chemicals that simulate certain taste buds. New flavors have to go through an approval process by the FDA. Unlike color additives, the FDA does not test them. Just because the FDA allows manufacturers to keep what is in their flavors a secret does not give me a warm and fuzzy feeling about them.
Sodium Hydroxide: It is an alkali, a highly caustic and reactive substance. In big quantities, it will burn the skin. What is it doing in Crest Complete toothpaste? My guess is that it is probably used to adjust the pH of the toothpaste, to make it less acidic.
Alcohol: It is toxic when ingested in big quantities but is probably okay in toothpastes.
Xanthan Gum: It is a common thickener and is generally considered safe. It is often produced from genetically modified corn, though.
Sodium Saccharin: It is another artificial sweetener that is found along with stevia and sucralose to be less damaging for teeth than sugar. It might have beneficial antibacterial properties (source).
Glycerin: While it is safe, there is a belief from non-scientific sources that it coats teeth, preventing remineralization. I believe glycerin alone is not an indication that a toothpaste will have ill effects on your teeth. You must look at the whole formulation. In other words, other ingredients in the toothpaste may offset its potential coating properties.
Carbomer: It is a polymer made from acrylic acid. Carbomer holds ingredients together and makes the Crest Complete toothpaste thick. While there are no studies finding it toxic, this ingredient has nothing to do with the health of your teeth and gums.
Cellulose Gum: This is a safe ingredient. However, I believe that it has nothing to do with the health of teeth and is more about the toothpaste staying put on your toothbrush. It is also a film-forming substance (source).
Polysorbate 80: This is another ingredient that holds the other ingredients in Crest Complete toothpaste together. Because it is made with carcinogenic petrochemical ethylene oxide, it may be contaminated with carcinogenic 1,4-dioxane. I generally avoid products made with ethoxylated ingredients. You can read more about them here.
Sodium Benzoate: It is a “safer” preservative commonly used in processed foods. I do not recommend eating it, but in toothpaste it is okay. It may also cause an allergic reaction in some people if used in concentrations of 5% (source). Most preservatives have some concerns about them, though. That’s why it is best to use products without water because they do not require preservatives.
Cetylpyridinium Chloride: It is often used in oral care products for its antibacterial properties and helps with the prevention of dental plaque accumulation and gingivitis. The European Union Scientific Committee on Consumer Products deems it safe in concentrations of up to 0.5%. The Committee notes that it may cause oral mucosal irritation (source). Also, it may have toxic effects on the environment (source). The good news for essential oils lovers is that this study found that the use of essential oils is as effective as cetylpyridium chloride for oral health.
Benzoic Acid: It is another preservative used in Crest Complete toothpaste and it is closely related to sodium benzoate, discussed above. It may also cause irritation in concentrations of 5% (source).
Titanium dioxide: It is used as a colorant or sunscreen. While it is safe unless inhaled, its sole purpose is to make the Crest Complete toothpaste white.
Disodium Pyrophosphate: It is an anti-tar ingredient. It is also known as sodium acid pyrophosphate and is used in food. The FDA recognizes it as generally safe when used in accordance with good manufacturing practices (source).
And now let’s talk briefly about sodium fluoride. While there is some debate about the use of fluoride, everybody agrees that it is toxic and can be deadly in big doses. The warning message on the Crest Complete toothpaste box confirms that. So, be careful to not swallow it, even in small amounts.
Too much fluoride can have a detrimental effect on teeth, too. Whether to use fluoride or not in your toothpaste is a personal decision. I believe the total amount of fluoride you are exposed to should be closely monitored. Do you filter your water? Do you drink a lot of tea or eat foods processed with fluoride? To read more about fluoride, please head over here.
Conclusion about Crest Complete toothpaste
The safety of Crest Complete toothpaste has improved. However, I can’t recommend it to you. I prefer to use toothpastes made with natural ingredients as well as those that are devoid of ethoxylated ingredients. I also prefer toothpastes where most ingredients, if not all of them, are there to improve oral health, not to improve the commercial appeal of the toothpaste.
Thanks for your interest in Crest Complete toothpaste. I hope you have found my opinions helpful.
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